Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Copenhagen Won't Be Enough

There's an article now up on, "Copenhagen Won't Be Enough" by Fred Branfman, which talks about the climate crisis and what we can do about it.  Here are some choice nuggets:

We live today as if in a trance, conducting business as usual in times so unusual that they pose an even greater threat than 20th-century wars that killed more than 100 million people. It seems incredible, for example, that nonscientists barely discuss how the human climate crisis undermines so many of their basic assumptions--in philosophy, law, psychology, sociology, economics, the arts and humanities, education and health--about human beings and their society.

Our basic problem is that the sudden advent of the human climate crisis invalidates our basic beliefs about humanity built up over millennia. We cannot yet see that we are no longer who we think we are.

Somewhere, somehow, someplace, forces have suddenly been unleashed which we do not fully understand. Humans have never faced the possibility that they could so degrade the biosphere as to make Earth uninhabitable for them. Our inner psychology has thus far been unable to even absorb this possibility, let alone mobilize to avoid it. Like children, we live in a world we cannot control, as we helplessly face existential questions which none before have even had to ask, let alone answer.

Although we know intellectually we will die, we largely live denying the painful feelings this knowledge evokes. Now, however, our individual denials of painful death feelings have for the first time coalesced into a trancelike societal denial of the death of all civilization looming over our children's future.

While corporate and conservative propaganda has played a major role in encouraging societal denial of the human climate crisis, the psychological roots of our cloud of unknowing lie far deeper.

Ernest Becker, Irvin Yalom and terror management theory social psychologists have explained how denial of death lies at the root of such societal issues as the human climate crisis. Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlett's new book Beyond Death Anxiety: Achieving Life-Affirming Death Awareness is perhaps the fullest description to date of how unconscious death anxiety negatively affects our day-to-day child rearing, relationships, sexuality, work and feelings about ourselves. But they also discuss an alternative: a life-affirming death awareness which can not only enrich individual lives but save civilization.

Branfman argues that civilization can indeed be saved.  I am forced to reluctantly disagree with his conclusions, but he has written a very intelligent article that is well worth reading.  In my opinion, we are now entering the Mother of all existential crises:  The bedrock truths of our civilization are turning out to be nothing more than human blather.  Whoopsie, now what?  It's the "now what" that I'm trying to investigate in this blog.